Turning Love for Food into a Lifestyle

There’s more to Portugal’s rich culinary heritage than peri-peri chicken. That’s something that Luis Ferreira has proved by growing Adega’s huge customer base.

Turning Love for Food into a Lifestyle

Vital Stats:

  • Cost of Adega restaurant up to 300m2: R3 million excl. Vat
  • Cost of Adega Express: R1 million to R1,5 million excl. Vat
  • Cost of Forno Italiano: R800 000 to R950 000 excl. Vat
  • Recommended unencumbered capital: 40% to 50% (site-specific)
  • Royalty Fee: 5%
  • Marketing fee: 4%
  • Employees per site: 25
  • Estimated ROI: 36 to 40 months (depending on gearing)

Trinchado, espetada and bacalhau are some of the highlights of Portuguese cuisine that you’ll find on Adega’s menu, along with the usual range of shellfish and poultry dishes.

It was this passion for food that led

Luis Ferreira, a BCom graduate, to go into the restaurant business. Portuguese food is about preparation. A variety of seafood, meat, vegetables, herbs and spices turn the dining table into a feast. “In Portuguese culture, food is pivotal to interactions between family and friends, and it’s that childhood memory, that feeling of love and abundance that I wanted to recreate at Adega.”

He’s clearly done something right: Adega has been voted best Portuguese restaurant in the Best of Johannesburg competition for nine years running, and has won The Star Reader’s Choice award for best Portuguese restaurant twice.

Getting into restauranting


Ferreira’s early experience in the industry was no easy ride. After dabbling in several businesses, his dream of offering people quality Portuguese food in an attractive setting would not let him rest and he opened his first restaurant in Johannesburg, in 1998, which saw him converting a traditional old Joburg house into a homely restaurant complete with traditional Portuguese tiles and a rustic, friendly vibe.

In the next few years he acquired another two restaurants in Johannesburg and his businesses flourished.

The franchise takes shape

He ran the Bryanston-based restaurant for two years and then, in 2005, the owner of another restaurant approached him for help.

“His restaurant was struggling for a number of reasons, and because of my restaurant experience, he asked me to step in,” says Ferreira. “That was how the Adega franchise was born.”

International expansion

Today there are 26 stores operating in three countries, and the franchise will soon expand into Botswana, Namibia, Nigeria, and Dubai. Attesting to the popularity of the brand is the fact that Ferreira was approached by interested people in each of these countries, based on reports from diners who had visited his outlets in South Africa.

One example is Pakistani-born entrepreneur Sadiq Surya, who became a franchisee when he relocated to Nairobi after living in Dubai for 22 years. Wanting the security of a franchise model, he chose an Adega franchise because he had eaten at Adega during his visits to South Africa, and really enjoyed it.

“The variety of food, including poultry, seafood and beef caters to all tastes and is one of the brand’s biggest attractions,” says Ferreira. “Our menu has wide appeal to people from all walks
of life.”

Tweaking the offering

In addition to the Adega we know, which has won numerous awards, Ferreira has introduced two new concepts with the help of group managing executive Henriette Senekal, who has more than 20 years’ experience at executive level in the food franchising industry, and in both quick service and formal dining concepts. She is excited about the rollout of Adega Express and Forno Italiano, the group’s new pizza franchise.

“The international trend is towards convenience and Adega Express is designed to tap into that trend and cater for on-the-go people who want the quality we offer, but in a contemporary, convenience-focused environment,” says Senekal.

“This concept is perfect for areas where there is a demand for our great products and quality, but a need to cater to people’s changing eating patterns, like lighter lunches, smaller portions and snack options. One example is the highly successful Adega Express in suburban Emmarentia, Johannesburg.”

We also started working on a concept built around traditional Italian wood-fired pizza. Our first Forno Italiano is successfully trading in Wilgeheuwel and there are now several stores in the pipeline,” says Senekal.


Maintaining market share

Senekal stresses that it’s the franchisor’s adherence to top quality food and recipes, backed by customer service that ensures its ongoing popularity.

“When you eat at one of our venues, it’s like being at home. Everything is prepared by hand, and overseen by people with a love for food. We have two full-time chefs who visit different stores every day. The founder of the business is around daily.”

Ferreira says that training is intense, and that it happens daily. “You won’t find Adega waiters wondering around with nothing to do, for example. They are always on the go, always with something in hand.”

Cost-effective marketing

The franchise has a strong social media presence, and a database numbering several hundred thousand customers, as part of Adega’s permission-based marketing drive.

“Radio and outdoor trailer advertising have also worked well for us. But the best mechanism, and the hardest to maintain, is undoubtedly word-of-mouth.”

Poised for growth

Prospective franchisees can be sure that Adega’s focus on quality dining continues to set it apart. That is why Ferreira and Senekal plan to double the number of stores in the next 18 to 24 months, with 43 franchisees now signed up.

In addition to a sizeable head office support team, the group employs more than 750 people in the franchise system. Plans are afoot to open a central distribution warehouse to prepare for the massive growth ahead.

Ferreira is unwavering in his commitment to independence, and says the brand will never lose its identity by becoming part of a bigger group. One thing is certain, Adega is poised for growth and ready to offer opportunities to franchisees who have the stomach for hard work, a passion for food, and a commitment to customer service excellence.

Be prepared for hard work


The biggest lesson Ferreira learnt from taking over failing restaurants is that this business is 24/7.

“Prospective franchisees walk into one of our stores and the dollar signs light up,” he says.

“My first conversation with them is to dissuade them from this industry and make them understand how tough it is. Of course you can make money, but only if you are prepared to be involved every day. If you’re not going to do that in the food business, a restaurant is a sure fire way to lose all your money.”

He is adamant about owner participation. Bear in mind that this means working whenever other people are playing. Adega is open 365 days a year, so there’s no rest.

“This is not a get rich quick scheme,” he adds. “It is so difficult that unless you absolutely love it and it becomes your lifestyle, it’s just not for you. It’s like hosting people in your home seven days a week. I love it, so it’s a pleasure for me. I have made friends with customers over the years and we know each other by name. The staff are my family. For me, this is my entertainment. I don’t need to play a round of golf to relax.”

How adega supports its franchisees      

  • More than two decades of industry experience
  • Assistance with landlord and lease negotiations
  • Build and turnkey project management
  • Management and staff training
  • On-site restaurant opening support
  • Ongoing operational support
  • Locality marketing assistance
  • Comprehensive social media activity.


Monique Verduyn
About the Author
Monique Verdyun is a regular contributor to Franchise Zone. Franchise Zone is published by Entrepreneur Media SA. It offers advice and franchising opportunities in South Africa.

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